Trimble County quarterback T.J. Payton (11) breaks off a big gain as Eminence defenders Luke Satterly (12) holds on for the ride. (Staff photo by Mark Campbell)
Trimble County quarterback T.J. Payton (11) breaks off a big gain as Eminence defenders Luke Satterly (12) holds on for the ride. (Staff photo by Mark Campbell)
When you've lost 14 in a row - including five by shutout and another seven in which you scored just a single touchdown - a 22-12 loss can be a moral victory worthy of a some celebration.

And that's just what Trimble County did Friday night after the Raiders' 22-12 loss to Eminence in Trimble's 2013 home football finale.

Make no mistake about it, Friday's game was indeed another loss for the 0-6 Raiders - a fact not lost on head coach Justin Franklin or his players - but there was a huge sigh of relief in the way Trimble battled back in the second half.

Trailing 14-0 at halftime after squandering every opportunity it had in the first half due to a wave of procedural penalties, Trimble proved it could not only sustain a long drive but also punch the ball into the end zone.

Trimble took the opening kickoff of the second half and drove 80 yards on one massive 9:45 drive capped by a T.J. Payton quarterback keeper from 1-yard out that made it 14-6 and got the Raiders on the scoreboard thanks to a more simplified wishbone attack Franklin put in this week.

"That drive was huge and there's no doubt in my mind that our confidence and improvement are just going to catapult off this game," Franklin said. "I think you'll see that that drive will make a huge difference."

Eminence, now 4-2 on the season, had built its two touchdown lead over Trimble thanks to a big-play offense that gobbled up yards in chunks due in large part to defensive breakdowns by the Raiders and long pass plays and runs by the Warriors' big athletic backs.

The Warriors entered the game with a stable of quick and lanky backs and a mercurial senior quarterback who is hard to contain in the pocket and quick to throw the ball up to his tall receivers once defenses break down.

Demarcus Bailey got the Warriors on the scoreboard first by capping a quick-hit drive with a 2-yard touchdown run with 4:39 left in the opening quarter and Shelby Armstrong ran in the conversion for an 8-0 lead.

Trimble denied what looked to be another Eminence scoring drive when Tevin Taylor picked off one of quarterback Jalen Dixie's passes in the red zone with 6:40 left in the first half but the Raiders were unable to convert the take-away into points or keep the ball out of the visitor' hands the rest of the first half.

So, with 19.7 seconds left in the first half Eminence scored what proved to be the game-winning touchdown when Armstrong scurried into the end zone on the end of a 1-yard pass from Dixie for a 14-0 lead that held up the rest of the way.

Over the first half of play Trimble had been steady on defense but mostly uninspiring on offense. The Raiders had racked up a few first downs while gaining little traction due to a flurry of procedural penalty flags. Trimble used all of its first-half timeouts to either avoid delay of game penalties or to avoid situations where the right personnel were not on the field.

That all changed at halftime.

"I try to bring a lot of intensity at halftime," Franklin smiled. "I don't know if it was a particular word or phrase but I got their attention and they came out playing better."

The difference was obvious on the long drive to open the third period that whittled the Warriors' lead to eight.

But while the big Trimble drive kept Eminence off the field for most of the third quarter, it didn't put the Warriors' offense to sleep. In fact, Eminence answered Trimble's touchdown with another quick hit drive capped by a 28-yard touchdown pass from Dixie to Bailey with 46 seconds left in the third period and Hayden Hoofman rumbled in for the conversion and a 22-6 lead.

"Their big plays killed us all night," Franklin sighed. "I mean a couple of big plays and this is an entirely different game."

But while Franklin didn't get the entirely different outcome, he did finish the night with what looked like an entirely different team. Down 16 points to start the fourth quarter, the Raiders kept grinding away out of the wishbone until Taylor sprinted off tackle on a 9-yard touchdown run with 3:15 left in the game for the final 22-12 margin.

The score marked just the third time in two seasons that Trimble found the end zone multiple times in a game. Franklin said he thinks the Raiders will be a more frequent visitor to the end zone the rest of the season.

"A profound difference is what you'll see I'm sure in the next couple of weeks," Franklin said of his team. "The improvement you saw tonight and drives like those can catapult you. I think we can explode in the next couple of weeks.

"We've got district opponents that I think we can compete with and the improvement you saw tonight will be a big difference," Franklin added. "We just ran the ball right our of the wishbone and just ran it real hard off tackle and simplified things and it made a huge difference."

The Raiders visit Owen County Friday night.